It was April, and the weather was already a little stuffy. The skyscrapers seemed even more towering under the sun’s rays, and greenery was filling the streets. The wind and songbirds on the trees took the roles as the lead singers of the White Noise Orchestra, with the car sirens joining in as accompaniment from time to time. Together, they composed the daily tunes.
The air-conditioning in the office building was on full blast. Tao Ting touched her cold arms and lightened her steps in the silent lobby.
She had left the house half an hour early, so no one else was in the elevator.
When she pressed the floor number, the numbers on the display panel jumped, and the elevator slowly rose.
Tao Ting took a deep breath and scraped at her nail cover. It was white, newly painted last week. While washing clothes yesterday, she had caught onto a button, and a small part had chipped off at the corner.
She clenched her fist and stuffed the blemish into her palm, covering it.
Over the past seven years, the childishness had faded. Now, she was a mature and elegant OL with exquisite makeup.
However, when the glass door opened to the sides and she looked up at the familiar logo, Tao Ting clutched her bag strap and was drawn back to that autumn.
She had worn a white T-shirt and a denim jacket, jotting down random drafts on her notebook. Inside the canvas bag, there was still a cup of unfinished instant coffee.
Because of a yawn that the man accidentally caught, she was teased and captivated  for many years.
The HR personnel handed her the work card, and Tao Ting fastened the strap and hung it over her chest.
The ID photo was newly taken. She was wearing a light-coloured shirt and smiling slightly at the camera.
Tao Ting stroked the line at the very bottom with her fingertips – it was her new title.
It was far more satisfying than a promotion.
She was standing on his battlefield, becoming his general, watching him stand at the peak as she expanded territories with him.
Tao Ting was a little eager to give it a try.
She wondered if her words during the interview had become a cursed blessing . It has been four months since joining Xique, and Tao Ting still had not seen a glimpse of Xu Linyue.
If not for his prominent headshot on the company’s official website, she might have suspected that she had come into the wrong company.
The marketing department was three floors away from the CEO office, and her daily meetings were not ranked high enough for her to ascend to the floors of the top-level management.
Tao Ting worked conscientiously every day. Her immediate boss, Lu Xiaoyue, was a straightforward and cheerful woman. She could learn a lot from working under her.
Work was busy, but she did not feel tired. Every day was fulfilling, and life was comfortable.
Occasionally, she would hear his name while her colleagues were gossiping. Now, she no longer needed to inquire deliberately; she could quickly know his every move.
Xu Linyue had not updated his Weibo for a long time. There were usually moments like this back then when he stayed silent for three to four months.
Tao Ting used to panic over such a “disappearance”, worrying about losing the only connection she had to him. However, Tao Ting was much calmer now because she knew that the company was recently busy preparing for the beauty exhibition in the next quarter. Xu Linyue had already been on several business trips these past two weeks.
“Ting, CEO Xu wants to hear the marketing proposal for the new products. Go ahead,” Lu Xiaoyue handed the folder she had finished reviewing to Tao Ting, dropping a bomb in a flat tone.
Tao Ting’s eyelashes trembled, and it took her a long time to find her voice, “Me?”
“Mm,” Lu Xiaoyue raised her eyebrows, “It’s your idea, your proposal. Of course, you should go. Do well.”
Tao Ting bit her lower lip, suppressing the raging waves in her heart. She lowered her head and said, “Okay, I’ve got it.”
Because she was clutching the folder tightly, her nail covers were turning a little white.
Her heart was beating faster, and she did not know which emotion was stronger.
It was nerve-wracking to give a work report directly to the boss, but Tao Ting could not suppress her excitement to see Xu Linyue.
Not daring to delay further, Tao Ting quickly touched up her makeup and re-sprayed some perfume on her wrist. She brushed back the hair behind her ears and combed the stray hairs scattered around her cheeks into a ponytail.
Hugging the folder, she stepped into the elevator steadily on her long, thin high heels and pressed the button for the 17th floor, a floor where she had never been before.
When the CEO’s assistant saw her, he connected to the intercom to report her arrival.
“CEO Xu said that you can go in.”
Tao Ting nodded, took a deep breath and pushed open the black door.
Like the cool-toned colour scheme decoration she imagined, Xu Linyue’s office, like him, had a calm sense of oppression.
Beige wallpapers covered the walls, and a dark blue leather sofa was placed in front of the French windows. There were no decorations on the wall except for a minimalistic clock, and the coffee table was a metal product with a cold sheen, with an oil painting of a bunch of peonies placed on top that did not fit in.
Tao Ting looked past the tidy desk at the man sitting on the leather chair.
His short black hair was neat, and he wore only a grey shirt without a tie, a button undone at the collar.
Not daring to look too much, she took a glance before lowering her eyes and softly called out, “CEO Xu.”
“You’re here,” Xu Linyue put down the fountain pen in his hand and pointed to the sofa, “sit down.”
Tao Ting arranged her skirt as she sat down, her high heels stepping on the dark carpet.
She maintained her composure even as her breathing sped up and her cheeks flushed red uncontrollably. Fortunately, there was a layer of foundation to cover them up to avoid letting her nervousness show.
Xu Linyue also got up and walked over, sitting down opposite her. Tao Ting saw his fitting suit and trouser legs, as well as the excellent workmanship of his leather shoes.
This was great. Her idol did not put on weight and was not greasy . He was even still so handsome that it was a little unfair.
Tao Ting opened the folder and was about to say the opening speech she had long prepared for, only to hear Xu Linyue say, “The headquarters rejected this proposal. They think that it is not suitable for the exhibition.”
The smile instantly froze at the corners of her mouth, and the unexpected sentence made Tao Ting’s brain go blank. She was completely unable to think of what to say at this time to ease the embarrassment.
Should she question their decision or apologise first? Tao Ting swallowed her saliva and awkwardly chose to keep silent.
However, Xu Linyue continued to throw her into a difficult situation, “What do you think? Do you approve of their judgement?”
Tao Ting raised her eyes to meet his gaze, straightened her back and said, “I want to hear the reason first.”
Xu Linyue raised the corner of his lips ambiguously, “Daylilies are solely recognised as the flower representing mothers in China . Tulips are more common internationally. Thus, the foreigners don’t have this sentiment. Even though the packaging and proposal do not have problems, they still hope to change the embossing.”
The beauty exhibition will be held in Berlin, and many brands will showcase their new products at the event, with the theme being “festivals”. Xique China has been given the theme of Mother’s Day.
Tao Ting exhaled; she had already considered this back at the beginning of the planning process. She controlled the speed of her speech and spoke, neither servile nor overbearing, “If so, I don’t approve of their judgement. Although tulips are more common, daylilies are more meaningful. Since we are based in China and our main market is domestic, the latter is of course better. We are running a brand, not obtaining a trademark in China just to follow the original marketing model. Thus, to allow Xique to better adapt to the Chinese market, we considered localising the product and chose the more sentimental daylilies as the representative.”
Tao Ting finished her speech and raised her eyes to look at the man opposite but saw that he was staring at herself fixedly.
Xu Linyue’s eyes were pointed at the corners and the tails, and the folds of the double eyelids were not deep, curving beautifully.
Even though he was looking at her expressionlessly, such a pair of eyes will make anyone feel deep affection for said person.
Tao Ting touched her neck and turned her head unnaturally.
Xu Linyue finally withdrew his gaze, lightly parting his thin lips and said three words in a relaxed tone, “Such a coincidence.”
He added with a smile, “Our ideas coincide.”
Even though she had successfully answered a question given to her by her superior and gotten his approval, she was still a little ashamed.
It was no coincidence; her earlier words were things that he had previously mentioned in his seminar. She can be said to have gotten a glimpse of the solution to this problem long ago.
The secretary brought two cups of coffee in. Tao Ting took a sip, but it was too bitter, with no sugar or milk. She was not used to it.
Perhaps he had seen her frown, for Xu Linyue beckoned the secretary to give her a new cup of latte.
After that conversation, Tao Ting was a little unsure about the actual purpose of being called into Xu Linyue’s office and asked tentatively, “Does the proposal still needs to be modified then?”
Instead of replying to her question, Xu Linyue asked, “What do you think?”
The corners of Tao Ting’s mouth pulled open, “We design the product to sell, not just to exhibit. From the market’s perspective, there is nothing wrong with this proposal.”
Xu Linyue cast an appreciative glance at her. He put down his coffee, and his gaze fell on the work card on her chest.
“Tao Ting.” The people of Shanghai do not differentiate between the front and back nasals, and Xu Linyue’s pronunciation of the ending final was curt , “Why don’t you come along to the exhibition?”
By the tone, this was a command, but Xu Linyue always liked turning them into questions.
A calm sense of oppression, domineering under the delicate appearance.
This was not to be negotiated, and one could only follow his wishes accordingly.
The man’s eyes were like a deep pool when she looked into it, as she nodded and agreed, “Okay.”
 一眼沦陷 (yī yǎn lún xiàn): This is based off a common saying, 一眼心动，两眼沦陷 (yī yǎn xīn dòng liǎng yǎn lún xiàn), which literally translates to “the first glance is heart fluttering, and in the second glance, I have fallen into your hands”. It is commonly used to describe love at first sight.
 毒奶 (dú nǎi), literally “poisonous milk”. It originated from League of Legends when the predictions and compliments from a Chinese caster always resulted in the predicted team/complimented player losing. Thus, this slang has since been used as a joke in the e-sports circle, and it has become so popular that it is being used outside of e-sports. You can read more about this here.
 油腻 (yóu nì): In English, the word “greasy” is used to describe a person or their manner as being sleazy, unpleasant or ingratiating. However, in China, this word may also represent a good-looking person trying too hard to show off their charm, causing discomfort to others. For a more detailed explanation, you can check this article out – it even has examples!
 The daylilies were originally used to represent a wife’s longing for her husband when he was away from home. Later, during the Tang dynasty, because of poems associating the daylilies to mothers, daylilies were used to represent filial respect towards mothers. (Source)
 A syllable consists of three elements in Chinese: an initial sound, a final sound and a tone. One type of final is the nasal final. Sounds ending in ‘-n’ is known as the front nasals, while sounds ending in ‘-ng’ is known as the back nasals. I am not familiar with how Shanghai people speak, but Xu Linyue most probably pronounced the ’g’ in “Ting” too softly/briefly that it sounded more like “Tin” instead.